Trances, Dances, and Vociferations: Agency and Resistance in Africana Women's Narratives

Trances, Dances, and Vociferations: Agency and Resistance in Africana Women's Narratives

Trances, Dances, and Vociferations: Agency and Resistance in Africana Women's Narratives

Trances, Dances, and Vociferations: Agency and Resistance in Africana Women's Narratives

Synopsis

Trances, Dances and Vociferations provides a compelling feminist analysis of gender politics in the works of four major Africana women writers: Toni Morrison, Michelle Cliff, Assia Djebar, and Paule Marshall. Nada Elia explores the way in which black women characters use conjuring, double entendre, and song to empower, liberate and determine their own female insurgency. She also explains how African and Afrodiasporic women have been forced to rewrite history and substitute a communal and individual wholeness for alienation and separation in many different settings, from Algeria to Oklahoma. Ranging over works including Marshall's Praisesong for the Widow, Djebar's A Sister to Scheherazade, Cliff's No Telephone to Heaven and Morrison's Jazz and Beloved, Elia offers essential and provocative insights into the works of some of our most influential Africana women authors today.

Excerpt

In the Beginning All Was Sound


in the beginning all was sound,
then words drew lines between day and night,
black and white,
male and female,
and echoes kept crossing the lines…

When Algerian novelist Assia Djebar set out to write her autobiography, she was confronted with the realization that she could do it only in French, the language of her former oppressor. “Autobiography practised in the enemy’s language has the texture of fiction,” she writes (F 216). “The language of the Others, in which I was enveloped from childhood…has adhered to me ever since like the tunic of Nessus” (217) she observes elsewhere, with a reference to the mythical half-human, half-horse monster with poisoned blood. To overcome this predicament, Djebar has recourse to a means of expression available exclusively to women: “The fourth language, for all females, young or old, cloistered or half-emancipated, remains that of the body: the body which…in trances, dances or vociferations, in fits of hope or despair, rebels, and unable to read or write, seeks some unknown shore as destination for its message of love” (180). Her writing, like that of many feminists, is a validation of sensual and intuitive knowledge, of a history passed down orally and through the body, for it is not to be found in textbooks. Visiting the site where her ancestors were killed (“fumigated”) during the French conquest of Algeria, she experiences their agony gutturally:

I must lean over backwards, plunge my face into the shadows, closely examine the vaulted roof of rock or chalk, lend an ear to the whispers that rise up from time out of mind, study this geology stained red with blood. What magma of sounds lies rotting here? What stench of putrefaction seeps out? I grope about, my sense of smell aroused, my ears alert.... And my body

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